A brilliant collection of short stories from the double Man Booker Prize-winning author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.
Hilary Mantel is one of Britain's most accomplished and acclaimed writers. In these ten bracingly subversive tales, all her gifts of characterisation and observation are fully engaged, summoning forth the horrors so often concealed behind everyday façades. Childhood cruelty is played out behind the bushes in 'Comma'; nurses clash in 'Harley Street' over something more than professional differences; and in the title story, staying in for the plumber turns into an ambiguous and potentially deadly waiting game.
Whether set in a claustrophobic Saudi Arabian flat or on a precarious mountain road in Greece, these stories share an insight into the darkest recesses of the spirit. Displaying all of Mantel's unmistakable style and wit, they reveal a great writer at the peak of her powers.
©2014 Hilary Mantel (P)2014 HarperCollins Publishers Limited
Prof of Global Health & Development - wide interests, fiction & non-, politics, justice & rights, culture & food, travel, art & creativity
Superb collection of beautifully written and narrated stories.
The first story in the collection describes a woman in Saudi Arabia who offers assistance to a chance visitor, a stranger, who then becomes a persistent, and unwanted, admirer. Hilary Mantel herself describes the story as one of a person being trapped and constrained, whose agency is limited by circumstances and cultural difference.
The book title is derived from a story, in turn based on an experience of the author, in which her apartment overlooks the grounds of a nearby hospital at which Margaret Thatcher has received dental attention. In the story, the woman is expecting a plumber at the time Margaret Thatcher is scheduled to be leaving the hospital and in full view of the apartment window. The 'plumber' arrives and sets about assembling a rifle, engages in conversation with the apartment owner, and turns out to be an IRA assassin. After discussing Mrs Thatcher, fully aware of the intended assassination, the apartment owner brings the IRA operative a cup of tea...
The most beautifully written story concerns an author coming to talk about her work in a small town where she is booked overnight at a crumbling local hotel. There she converses and engages with a physically disabled girl, an employee at the establishment, who attends to her needs. Their exchange is brought to the foreground and the tired run-of-the-mill greying bookclub recedes in importance.
Wonderfully written with Mantel's characteristic blend of evocative language, psychological insights, and humour. Superb.
Now living in Norfolk, enjoy historical fiction, political biography/autobiography and the classics.
The originality of the work
None really, it is a 'stand alone'
I liked most of the 'cast'
A classic and much as expected by HM in a class of her own
2nd - after the Collectors by Philip Pullman
Difficult to say - all short story collections have their special flavour.
It would spoil the fun...
No - one story at the time. Like a good chocolate.
Avid reader and listener, psychologist by profession historian by nature
I have no doubt from a literary point of view these stories are top draw, I have to say however they don't seem to work that well as an audio listen. A couple of the stories stay with you, which is good, but the rest are, well, dull to be honest. One for a paperback I would say rather than a download. Performance is good but you can only make tea parties and anorexia so interesting without being depressing.
Following the fantastic Wolf Hall and Bringi up the bodiesthis was a pale shadow, I would think twice before buying another Mantel, narration was fine.
A follow up to Bring up the bodies would be a certain choice, anything else would require closer analysis of reader reviews.
The stories were too shallow and often too short. I did not get to the end of the series of short stories because it was not an enjoyable experience to listen
N/a short stories
"Insightful overall but patchy in its quality."
No. There are few universal themes and even less, riveting stories. Just once off, well written stories.
It is fascinating to link Mantel's known, personal story with her fiction. Particularly the nasty aspects of medical misdiagnosis. The space between these lines is worth the intellectual exercise. Of least interest is the perceived intransigence on certain issues which trudges on without being of any value to another human being. For the first time I really saw the more unattractive side of this author's personality.
In short stories this is hard to choose. The characters trapped in Saudi Arabia were my least favourite.
The assassin in the last story was memorable because he lacked all credibility. Come to think of it, I did not believe the representation of the remarkably calm old lady.
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